Monday, 24 September 2012

Gadgets and gizmos a-plenty - James

JamesI've been investing in visually impaired friendly technology recently, which is a whole new world for me having relied mainly on analogue magnifiers for years. I've bought Zoom Text software for my laptop, which I discovered last year at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford and fell in love with. It doesn't work 100% perfectly on my laptop, but I think that's more to do with my graphics card or something which is pretty useless so there are times when my operating system seems to go into frame-skip slow motion, but that’s not Zoom Text’s fault. Oh well, I just need a newer, better laptop.

I finally invested in a Kindle which has changed my reading life completely. I wasn't sure whether the black on white screen would be good for me (I prefer white on black) but I'm getting used to it. Sometimes you just have to make do, but perhaps in the future they'll develop a colour change setting. It's a shame you can't increase the font size on the menu screens too, which I have to read using a magnifier. Quite why they give you the option to increase the font size in the actual books but assume your eyesight goes back to 'normal' in the menu is beyond me. But there you go.

I've bought the Optelec Compact 5HD portable video magnifier which produces an exquisite image but is slightly cumbersome and not quite as portable as I'd have liked. I might keep that one for in the flat when I'm reading and buy a more lightweight and aerodynamic one to put in my satchel for when I'm out and about. I bought one of the second hand CCTV magnifiers that the SRSB had on sale in their foyer, which is a godsend. I needed a television anyway and since this had one connected rather than an inbuilt 'brick' monitor it seemed like the perfect choice. One scart lead splitter later and I was using it for reading magazines and watching DVDs… killing two birds with one stone is what that's called!

Oh and my favourite gadget (next to the Kindle) which came last week is the Doro PhoneEasy 615 mobile phone. Fantastic! The last few mobile phones I've had I've needed to look at using a magnifying glass, which tends to look odd when you're sat texting in the pub. But with the Doro I can see the screen really easily, especially with its versatile colour options. I've not tried it out much in broad daylight yet, which is where screens often elude me completely, but I'm sure that'll be tested soon. The only annoying thing is that although it accepted the SIM card from my last mobile phone (a Nokia) it doesn't seem to be able to access the address book and photos. I might give Doro a buzz and see what they say. There's probably something in the settings I've missed.

I'm thinking about trying out an iPad in the near future in the hope that it's inbuilt zoom and colour settings might make browsing the internet easier for me, but being a touch typist I'm not quite sure how I'll cope without a keyboard. I guess a trip to the Apple store is in order. Can anyone reading this recommend them?

Anyway, onwards and upwards!